Disgruntled truckies are rallying in Sydney tomorrow to let Transurban know what they think of the $23.73 toll they’ll be asked to pay each time they use the new NorthConnex tunnel.
Organised by the Transport Workers’ Union NSW, the protest sees drivers assembling at Lane Cove before a 2.30pm departure to Observatory Park in Pennant Hills, opposite the NorthConnex site, where an official media conference will take place at 3pm.
“I apologise to the people of Sydney for the inconvenience, but it has to be done,” owner-driver Phillip Mineo told 10 News First Sydney yesterday.
In the same report, Luke Refano of Jeffsann Excavations, a company which helped build the controversial tunnel, said he now feels like he was digging his own grave.
His monthly Sydney toll bills for his 15-strong fleet are already as high $54,486 per month.
Given the financial impacts of the recession and pandemic we’re now in, TWU NSW Secretary Richard Olsen wants to see the tolls lifted for the next 12 months.
He’s also lobbying the NSW Government for the following:
- A cap on the tolls commercial vehicles pay.
- In the future the NSW Government and Transurban will help operators of commercial vehicles facing hardship, even though Linkt and Transurban are currently refusing to do so.
- Industry Agreements will include clauses that include compensation for the costs of using toll roads.
- Government will make cost recovery easier by locking fair payment times into legislation. Transport industry businesses and owner-drivers should be paid within 30 days.
“Transurban is targeting heavy vehicles to raise profits for their infrastructure business,” he says.
“In the meantime income for transport workers is shrinking while costs are accelerating. Drivers are in many cases are unable to recover their costs from their clients.”
Transurban says that what truckies lose in tolls they’ll more than make up for in time savings by using the 9km motorway, Australia’s longest and deepest tunnel, which is expected to open later this year.
Pat Doyle, NorthConnex project director, Transport for NSW, tells Big Rigs that those that using this $3 billion north-south route will reduce travel times by up to 15 minutes and avoid 21 sets of traffic lights.
“You’ll be able to travel between Newcastle and Melbourne without single set of traffic lights, and bypass 40 traffic lights on the Pacific Highway to the centre of Sydney,” says Doyle.
“Add that to the increased fuel efficiency and reduced wear and tear, 3.5m wide lands and a breakdown lane with 24-hour monitoring, and there are real benefits.”
But they will come at a cost and there are no concessions planned to compensate operators who may be feeling the pinch from the pandemic.
Heavy vehicle drivers who have a local destination off Pennant Hills Road can continue using the existing route without charge, however.
A vehicle transporting dangerous goods with a dangerous goods placard, or sign, and an oversize vehicle operating under a Class 1 permit, or notice approved to use Pennant Hills Road, are also exempt from having to travel in the tunnel.
All other drivers of trucks over 12.5m long, or over 2.8m clearance height, must head into the tunnel and if caught flouting the rules will be fined $191 (no demerit points).
Two giant gantries with cameras have been installed on Pennant Hills – in the north at Normanhurst and in the south at Beecroft/West Pennant Hills – to monitor traffic flow between the M1 and M2.
“This is an exciting project, but we also recognise it’s a big change as trucks and buses account for around a quarter of the traffic on Pennant Hills Road on weekdays and two thirds on weeknights,” says Doyle.
“Up to 5,000 trucks a day are expected to move from using this route through local suburbs to travelling through the new NorthConnex tunnels.”
- This weekend’s protest rally is open to TWU members and non-members. Anyone wanting to take part should meet at the assembly point on Mars Road in Lane Cove between 1-2pm.